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In One Person by John Irving
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May 15, 2012

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Read from May 15 to 21, 2012

Irving’s latest falls a bit short of his most breath-taking, memorable novels, such as "The World According to Garp", "A Prayer For Owen Meany", and "A Widow For One Year". "In One Person" chronicles the efforts of a bi-sexual named Billy Abbott, born during WWII, to find self-acceptance and tolerance. In his later years, Billy has already achieved the former, and at last achieves a modicum of the latter.

As always, Irving displays an endless fascination for ‘naughty bits’ and all the uses to which they might be put. In this case, his penchant for repeating words, phrases and details gets a bit tiresome, especially in the early chapters. However, I soon got caught up in the lives of Billy and his friends and family – many as quirky as one might expect! Also, in the world of the novel there are surprisingly few ‘standard issue’ heterosexuals; perhaps Irving was trying to give straight readers a sense of exclusion. The sections of the novel dealing with the worst years of the AIDS epidemic are harrowing and moving – if perhaps a bit too clinical.

Still, I’m glad to have read it – I never miss an Irving novel!

For those familiar with his oft-repeated topics: wrestling, Vienna, prep school, etc. (they’re all here) – Irving employs a clever twist on his bear motif.
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